The legs on a piece of furniture are similar to a name tag -- they provide information about the type of furniture you have and a guideline for dating the pieces. This is important if you're looking for a particular style of furniture for decorating, or if you want to assess the value of an antique piece. Once you've identified the leg style, you can look more closely at the feet to get even more accurate with your labeling and dating.
Saber legs are distinguishable by their graceful single curve. This type of leg always flares outward. It is common on small pieces like end tables. The legs may extend past the top of the furniture, but the smallest degree of the curve does not. Sabers were common in the 19th century.
Cabriole legs curve inward first and then curve out again at the base. The double curve provides strength to the leg, allowing it to support even heavy objects. The two main styles of cabriole legs are Queen Anne and Chippendale. Chippendale cabrioles tend to be more elaborate than Queen Anne cabrioles. Cabrioles were popular in the early 18th century.
Marlborough legs are straight legs common to the 18th century. They often have fluting, but not all do. Because the ends of these legs usually have a square foot, they also are known as blocks.
Spider legs are similar to saber legs, except that bottom of the leg is curved so that it is raised higher off the floor. This makes the curve of the leg much more subdued and forces the end of the leg to curve back down toward the floor. These legs are usually attached to the furniture at a central location, making them ideal for small pieces like end tables.
Spiral legs usually are straight like Marlborough legs. However, they have fluting that is twisted to resemble a rope. Popular during the Restoration, spiral legs originated in India and Portugal. They were used primarily in the mid to late 17th century.
Tapered legs are nearly identical to Marlborough legs. The difference is that they are wider at the top than they are at the bottom. The thinnest part of the leg is at the floor. This helps create the illusion that the top of the furniture is wider than it truly is. However, because the weight becomes distributed on the smallest part of the leg, users have to be careful of how heavy the top of the furniture is. The style was used in the mid to late 18th century.
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